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I was caught up in a frenzy of techno love

It’s May 2004, I’m leading a product development team that’s going to revolutionize the internet market. Or so I thought 😉 .

We were in the New Zealand arm of Vodafone (largest telco in the world, owns 45% of Verizon Wireless).

The new product was Vodafone live! which was kind of a mobile Yahoo approach to the new technology of the mobile internet.

Now the company that figured out the mobile internet was iPhone – but that wasn’t until 2007.

In 2004 we were looking at ramping up or creating parts of Vodafone live!:

  • MMS World was a sort of mobile internet photo album or flickr (dead)
  • video calls (has yet to take off on a mobile)
  • MMS photo messaging (had showed hints of being the next SMS – a so called ‘killer app’)
  • mobile payments (now seen very successfully in Africa but not elsewhere)
  • music downloads (iPod took that market)
  • news services (lots of devices do this well)
  • email of course (blackberry dominated this for a while but other devices have caught up)
  • IM (may as well just use SMS on a mobile)
  • and an elusive concept called SIP (a technology that mobile Skype is just starting to make happen).

Exciting times.

I had an enthusiastic team of young marketers and engineers, and older more realistic projects managers. We had the top finance guy doing our financial analysis.

I was sent to London and Dusselfdorf (GER) to see the Vodafone live! teams there as well as Newbury (UK) to get the lowdown from Vodafone HQ.

Amazed by the technology I came back an avid enthusiast for the road we were taking. It was going to cost millions but it could mean millions more in revenue.

And you know what. I had caught new technology disease.

Instead of being focused on mobile and internet consumers, and the financial payback of the technology, I was caught up in a frenzy of techno love.

None of it took off.

Five years later, in 2009, Vodafone live! was effectively dumped and a new sub brand called Vodafone 360 launched. This was aimed at connecting to facebook, twitter, email etc – things that consumers were using all the time and really valued.

My learning from that was that you focus on the 20% of things that your customers really demonstrably value.

That might be technology or it might not. The technology is very sexy, it can automate the most simple of things extremely well.

But if the customer doesn’t want it, or it’s too expensive then don’t use it.

Do it by hand, concentrate on what matters most. In Vodafone’s case it focused back on concentrating on call minutes, SMS, email and handsets.

So what’s my point?

In the process of selling wine online we can be mesmerized by the technology. Certainly I can. But after that experience I keep asking myself, “Do you really need that? Will a simpler way make better common sense?. Just calculate it or look it up by hand.”

Why spend 80% of your budget on something that will only deliver a small part of your profits?

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